Feds say NW snails and slugs may merit protection

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- Federal biologists say 26 species of snails and slugs found in old growth forests of the Northwest may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The finding was announced Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It starts a yearlong process for deciding whether to place the mollusks on the endangered species list.

The decision was prompted by a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups. They have been waiting since 2008 for a decision on protecting the mollusks, which are found in Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

Center biologist Tierra Curry says slugs and snails may be small and slimy, but they are a vital source of food for other animals, and play an important role in the healthy functioning of forest ecosystems.